Monday, November 10, 2014

His: Living in America - Music note value names

Monday's are usually Travel Review days here on the blog, but I wanted another day to get that post organized so I switched. Come back tomorrow for our journey!

I learned how to read music at a young age as I played the trumpet and cornet. One of the quotes that I remember from my bandmaster was "Music is the universal language because anyone who can read music can play the tune even though you may speak different languages". 

I always thought this was true until one night when Amanda was talking about what the kids were doing in band. She used terms like "Whole Note" and "Quarter Note" and I figured it must have been guitar chords since these were terms I was not familiar with and chords were one of the only types of music that I had not studied. I came to find out that she was referring to regular sheet music and I said, "So you are talking about Crotchets and Minims and so forth right?" She was just as lost as I was when I used those terms. 

We soon learned that, like many things in America, music note values have different names to what I grew up using in Australia. Below is a chart of the most common note values and the American and British/Australian names for them.

American and British/Australian Note Value Names
Not a complete list but has the most common note values.
The Americans use a fairly simple system where the name of the note is the value of the note compared to the whole note. So a half note is half as long as a whole note, a quarter note is a quarter as long as a whole note and so forth.

The British (and others including the Aussies) use mostly Latin for the name of the notes. It has some similarities to the American system, but it is a little different. 

Longa - means "long" and is equal to 4 whole notes.

Breve - means "short" and is equal to 2 whole notes.

Semi - means "half" when placed in front of another word. So a SemiBreve is equal to a whole note since it is half of a breve and a Semiquaver is equal to a sixteenth note.

Minim - means "Very short" and is equal to a half note.

Crotchet - was named after the French word for "little hook" which is what the note resembles. It is equal to a quarter note.

Quaver - was named after the quavering from very fast notes. It is equal to an eighth note.

The short notes get even longer and crazier names. For instance a 1/256th note is called a semihemidemisemiquaver. (Try saying that 5 times quickly!). This system seems more difficult to master, but it wasn't too bad since it was all we knew and were taught.

I thought it was very interesting that the names of the notes were so different especially since so many of the other Latin terms used inside sheet music are the same. 

Did you know there were two different sets of names for the note values? Which set you prefer?

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